Now incorporating the Sudbury Hill Times

Friday, April 29, 2005

30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon

Guardian Unlimited / Special reports / Interactive. Vietnam

Next year will be the fiftieth anniversary of the election that was supposed to take place in Vietnam in 1956. President Eisenhower later wrote that according to all his advisors, possibly 80% of the population would have voted for Ho Chi Minh. Pity they were never given the chance.

Mystery motives of mad murderer

The obLiterati

'The man accused of bludgeoning Norman Mailer shouted to a crowded court that he "killed him as a publicity stunt" for the publishing house, pretendGenius Press.'

They're not all locked up.

The ghost of Zozimus

Obituary

We're having a bit of trouble with the cleaning company today. Apparently their minimum wage elves are refusing to work in Willesden Herald House after midnight. They say that a bearded, blind ghost in scrofulous clothing has been seen in the canteen eating Danish pastries and listening to the TV. When they made themselves known, he disappeared. Can it be any coincidence that the infamous balladeer Zozimus retired from his mortal beat just yesterday. He made a living by reciting ballads on bridges and city streets, with a small blackbacked jackal by his side. One can hardly say he will be missed, because he has taken up residence in the canteen of Willesden Herald House.

A great day for impostherers

Mrs Zozimus here. I'm sorry to tell you, poor old Zozimus died earlier today after a long crise de foie. However, his spirit will live on in his uncle Ed over at the Willesden Herald. No flowers please.



THE LAST GLEEMAN
by W. B. Yeats (public domain)

MICHAEL MORAN was born about 1794 off Black Pitts, in the Liberties of Dublin, in Faddle Alley. A fortnight after birth he went stone blind from illness, and became thereby a blessing to his parents, who were soon able to send him to rhyme and beg at street corners and at the bridges over the Liffey. They may well have wished that their quiver were full of such as he, for, free from the interruption of sight, his mind became a perfect echoing chamber, where every movement of the day and every change of public passion whispered itself into rhyme or quaint saying. By the time he had grown to manhood he was the admitted rector of all the ballad-mongers of the Liberties. Madden, the weaver, Kearney, the blind fiddler from Wicklow, Martin from Meath, M'Bride from heaven knows where, and that M'Grane, who in after days, when the true Moran was no more, strutted in borrowed plumes, or rather in borrowed rags, and gave out that there had never been any Moran but himself, and many another, did homage before him, and held him chief of all their tribe. Nor despite his blindness did he find any difficulty in getting a wife, but rather was able to pick and choose, for he was just that mixture of ragamuffin and of genius which is dear to the heart of woman, who, perhaps because she is wholly conventional herself, loves the unexpected, the crooked, the bewildering. Nor did he lack, despite his rags, many excellent things, for it is remembered that he ever loved caper sauce, going so far indeed in his honest indignation at its absence upon one occasion as to fling a leg of mutton at his wife. He was not, however, much to look at, with his coarse frieze coat with its cape and scalloped edge, his old corduroy trousers and great brogues, and his stout stick made fast to his wrist by a thong of leather: and he would have been a woeful shock to the gleeman MacConglinne, could that friend of kings have beheld him in prophetic vision from the pillar stone at Cork. And yet though the short cloak and the leather wallet were no more, he was a true gleeman, being alike poet, jester, and newsman of the people. In the morning when he had finished his breakfast, his wife or some neighbour would read the newspaper to him, and read on and on until he interrupted with, "That'll do--I have me meditations"; and from these meditations would come the day's store of jest and rhyme. He had the whole Middle Ages under his frieze coat.

He had not, however, MacConglinne's hatred of the Church and clergy, for when the fruit of his meditations did not ripen well, or when the crowd called for something more solid, he would recite or sing a metrical tale or ballad of saint or martyr or of Biblical adventure. He would stand at a street comer, and when a crowd had gathered would begin in some such fashion as follows (I copy the record of one who knew him)--"Gather round me, boys, gather round me. Boys, am I standin' in puddle? am I standin' in wet?" Thereon several boys would cry, "Ali, no! yez not! yer in a nice dry place. Go on with St. Mary; go on with Moses"--each calling for his favourite tale. Then Moran, with a suspicious wriggle of his body and a clutch at his rags, would burst out with "All me buzzim friends are turned backbiters"; and after a final "If yez don't drop your coddin' and diversion I'll lave some of yez a case," by way of warning to the boys, begin his recitation, or perhaps still delay, to ask, "I s there a crowd round me now? Any blackguard heretic around me?" The best-known of his religious tales was St. Mary of Egypt, a long poem of exceeding solemnity, condensed from the much longer work of a certain Bishop Coyle. It told how a fast woman of Egypt, Mary by name, followed pilgrims to Jerusalem for no good purpose, and then, turning penitent on finding herself withheld from entering the Temple by supernatural interference, fled to the desert and spent the remainder of her life in solitary penance. When at last she was at the point of death, God sent Bishop Zozimus to hear her confession, give her the last sacrament, and with the help of a lion, whom He sent also, dig her grave. The poem has the intolerable cadence of the eighteenth century, but was so popular and so often called for that Moran was soon nicknamed Zozimus, and by that name is he remembered. He had also a poem of his own called Moses, which went a little nearer poetry without going very near. But he could ill brook solemnity, and before long parodied his own verses in the following ragamuffin fashion:

In Egypt's land, contagious to the Nile,
King Pharaoh's daughter went to bathe in style.
She tuk her dip, then walked unto the land,
To dry her royal pelt she ran along the strand.
A bulrush tripped her, whereupon she saw
A smiling babby in a wad o' straw.
She tuk it up, and said with accents mild,
"'Tare-and-agers, girls, which av yez owns the child?"

His humorous rhymes were, however, more often quips and cranks at the expense of his contemporaries. It was his delight, for instance, to remind a certain shoemaker, noted alike for display of wealth and for personal uncleanness, of his inconsiderable origin in a song of which but the first stanza has come down to us:

At the dirty end of Dirty Lane,
Liv'd a dirty cobbler, Dick Maclane;
His wife was in the old king's reign
A stout brave orange-woman.
On Essex Bridge she strained her throat,
And six-a-penny was her note.
But Dickey wore a bran-new coat,
He got among the yeomen.
He was a bigot, like his clan,
And in the streets he wildly sang,
O Roly, toly, toly raid, with his old jade.

He had troubles of divers kinds, and numerous interlopers to face and put down. Once an officious peeler arrested him as a vagabond, but was triumphantly routed amid the laughter of the court, when Moran reminded his worship of the precedent set by Homer, who was also, he declared, a poet, and a blind man, and a beggarman. He had to face a more serious difficulty as his fame grew. Various imitators started up upon all sides. A certain actor, for instance, made as many guineas as Moran did shillings by mimicking his sayings and his songs and his getup upon the stage. One night this actor was at supper with some friends, when dispute arose as to whether his mimicry was overdone or not. It was agreed to settle it by an appeal to the mob. A forty-shilling supper at a famous coffeehouse was to be the wager. The actor took up his station at Essex Bridge, a great haunt of Moran's, and soon gathered a small crowd. He had scarce got through "In Egypt's land, contagious to the Nile," when Mo ran himself came up, followed by another crowd. The crowds met in great excitement and laughter. "Good Christians," cried the pretender, "is it possible that any man would mock the poor dark man like that?"

"Who's that? It's some imposhterer," replied Moran.

"Begone, you wretch! it's you'ze the imposhterer. Don't you fear the light of heaven being struck from your eyes for mocking the poor dark man?"

"Saints and angels, is there no protection against this? You're a most inhuman-blaguard to try to deprive me of my honest bread this way," replied poor Moran.

"And you, you wretch, won't let me go on with the beautiful poem. Christian people, in your charity won't you beat this man away? he's taking advantage of my darkness."

The pretender, seeing that he was having the best of it, thanked the people for their sympathy and protection, and went on with the poem, Moran listening for a time in bewildered silence. After a while Moran protested again with:

"Is it possible that none of yez can know me? Don't yez see it's myself; and that's some one else?"

"Before I can proceed any further in this lovely story," interrupted the pretender, "I call on yez to contribute your charitable donations to help me to go on."

"Have you no sowl to be saved, you mocker of heaven?" cried Moran, Put completely beside himself by this last injury--"Would you rob the poor as well as desave the world? O, was ever such wickedness known?"

"I leave it to yourselves, my friends," said the pretender, "to give to the real dark man, that you all know so well, and save me from that schemer," and with that he collected some pennies and half-pence. While he was doing so, Moran started his Mary of Egypt, but the indignant crowd seizing his stick were about to belabour him, when they fell back bewildered anew by his close resemblance to himself. The pretender now called to them to "just give him a grip of that villain, and he'd soon let him know who the imposhterer was!" They led him over to Moran, but instead of closing with him he thrust a few shillings into his hand, and turning to the crowd explained to them he was indeed but an actor, and that he had just gained a wager, and so departed amid much enthusiasm, to eat the supper he had won.

In April 1846 word was sent to the priest that Michael Moran was dying. He found him at 15 (now 14½ ) Patrick Street, on a straw bed, in a room full of ragged ballad-singers come to cheer his last moments. After his death the ballad-singers, with many fiddles and the like, came again and gave him a fine wake, each adding to the merriment whatever he knew in the way of rann, tale, old saw, or quaint rhyme. He had had his day, had said his prayers and made his confession, and why should they not give him a hearty send-off? The funeral took place the next day. A good party of his admirers and friends got into the hearse with the coffin, for the day was wet and nasty. They had not gone far when one of them burst out with "It's cruel cowld, isn't it?" "Garra'," replied another, "we'll all be as stiff as the corpse when we get to the berrin-ground." "Bad cess to him," said a third; "I wish he'd held out another month until the weather got dacent." A man called Carroll thereupon produced a half-pint of whiskey, and they all drank to the soul of the departed. Unhappily, however, the hearse was over-weighted, and they had not reached the cemetery before the spring broke, and the bottle with it.

Moran must have felt strange and out of place in that other kingdom he was entering, perhaps while his friends were drinking in his honour. Let us hope that some kindly middle region was found for him, where he can call dishevelled angels about him with some new and more rhythmical form of his old

Gather round me, boys, will yez
Gather round me?
And hear what I have to say
Before ould Salley brings me
My bread and jug of tay;

and fling outrageous quips and cranks at cherubim and seraphim. Perhaps he may have found and gathered, ragamuffin though he be, the Lily of High Truth, the Rose of Far-sought Beauty, for whose lack so many of the writers of Ireland, whether famous or forgotten, have been futile as the blown froth upon the shore. (From: The Celtic Twilight)


Zoz

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Resurrection of the Lord God bird

"Extinct" woodpecker sighted

"A large, dramatic-looking bird, the ivory-billed woodpecker was known to be shy and to prefer the deep woods of the U.S. Southeast. It was sometimes nicknamed the 'Lord God bird,' [John] Fitzpatrick [of the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology in New York] said. 'It is such a striking bird. When people would see it they would say, 'Lord God what a woodpecker.' That's where it came from,' he said." (Reuters)

What else is there to say, only hallelujah.

Cabinet of fools

Revealed: What Lord Goldsmith told Lord Sedgefield

"In a legal opinion Mr Blair has repeatedly refused to publish and never seen by the cabinet, Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, spelled out the dangers of going to war, including the prospect of Britain losing a case in an international court."

The release of this is just a bit of obfuscation, because the general public won't understand it, but it reveals how the cabinet has been taken for mugs by Number 10. The betrayal that people will understand is in the 2001 manifesto: "We will not introduce 'top-up' fees and have legislated to prevent them."

They also know that the council tax has turned out as bad as the poll tax, and the government hasn't cared enough to do anything about it. Having watched undercover film reports on television they will know that targets met according to the Labour jobsworth bureaucracy are just so much delusion. We saw last night on Channel 4's "Chaos in Schools" how schools with violent and anarchic chaos are described by Ofsted as having good standards of behaviour. We know that thousands of people who go into hospital every year for help are being killed by MRSA. We are living through a "Great Leap Forward" that is as hollow as Mao's was.

But they are trying to pretend that the only issues are fine issues of law debated by the Privy divers Hutton, Goldsmith and Butler. Imagine another five years of this crap, and then in 2010 Brown takes over and leads Labour to defeat. Is that what we're about to see?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A new novel by Lucian etc.

"Papyrus Reveals New Clues to Ancient World"

"Classical Greek and Roman literature is being read for the first time in 2,000 years thanks to new technology. The previously illegible texts are among a hoard of papyrus manuscripts. [...] Salvaged from an ancient garbage dump in Egypt, the collection is kept at Oxford University in England. Known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, the collection includes writings by great classical Greek authors such as Homer, Sophocles, and Euripides"

Ossian

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Beyond the thin red curtain at midnight

On reading the poet’s reviews of slim new volumes

Ossian

Targets in the NHS and Education

"Afraid to disappoint their leaders, peasants falsified grain production numbers. Several poor harvests caused massive famine and the deaths of millions of people throughout China." (Encarta)

But the targets were met - the documents are clear! Forward not back!

You will need a permit from the government to exist

Nobody who doesn't want to be tagged like livestock, nobody who doesn't want to be beholding to whatever government is elected for permission to exist, nobody who considers himself or herself born free in a land that's their own, nobody at all should vote for Labour. They have promised to take steps within a month after the election to introduce an Identity card law. You would be charged about £40 for a permit to exist, without which you would be excluded from all rights - such as are not yet abolished - and without which you would lose your birthright as a native of your own land. Once you are corralled into acquiring an identity card you will be effectively stamped on the wrist, and under the complete control of whatever lying cadre of sheisters have managed to manipulate public ignorance to achieve power. And don't be so naive as to imagine they will not abuse their power, it won't be very long after they tag you that they move to reduce your freedom still more, till you are at the mercy of the bureaucracy in what will be nothing but an open prison, or rather a farm.

"All nightmares have to end"

Brian Sedgemore defects to the Liberal Democrats

"For Tony Blair, principles and ideas have become impediments to the continuance of his lust for power."

"The public are surely right to hold modern politics and politicians in ill-repute. They've realised that Jonathan Swift was close to the truth when he said that 'all politicians ultimately die of swallowing their own lies'." (Independent)

He estimates 150 other Labour MP's are sympathetic to his views.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Mind-reading machine knows what you see

New Scientist Breaking News

Can we wheel this thing into a Labour press conference? Let's expose the whole mare's nest they're offering. Print out the real facts.

Hold your hat and vote for the Liberals

Editorial

Don't vote for warmongers. Don't vote for liars. Don't sleepwalk into another five years of the Reverend Phony. He's sorted out his four million pound retirement pad, send him to it now. The totality of his behaviour over the invasion of Iraq constitutes one big lie, from pretending that it was not a decision made between him and George W Bush, through pretending that the United Nations had any say in it, through issuing half-plagiarised, half-falsified, fraudulent documents, through deploying the Black Watch the week before the US Presidential Election, through to the present day when he denies the whole tangled web. A lie is a lie is a lie, and he can delude himself till his last breath, but he can't change the facts. Thousands of people died as a result of a series of lies and deceptions.

His defence over Iraq can be characterised as, 'I killed innocent people but Saddam must've killed more.' Can he not see at all, is he without all percipience, is he a dunce or a dolt or both or does he care only for his own aggrandisement and self-satisfaction? How pathetic to hear him cry 'What if I'd not invaded Iraq and Iraq had attacked us?' It's like a paranoid serial killer's justification. 'I had to kill them because they were out to get us. That was my judgement. Even though I now know they weren't.'

For the top-up fees betrayal alone, let alone illegal wars, let alone crippling Council Tax and bureaucracy, New Labour should be ejected. If the US electorate rejected George Bush senior because he said, "Read my lips, no new taxes" and then introduced taxes, how can the British electorate do less than reject the arrant phony who promised (quote) "We will not introduce 'top-up' fees, and have legislated to prevent them" and then went on to force through the introduction of top-up fees for universities, against a principled revolt that reduced his majority to just five. What on earth is a lie, if that is not a lie uncovered? Has language lost all its meaning? Hellooo! 'If it quacks it's a tax.'

Give him the royal order of the boot. And don't fail. If the Labour majority cannot be completely overturned, at least let it be so hugely reduced that we don't have to put up with the insufferable phony's condescension and abuses for another five years.

Over recent days he has called for the election to be a referendum on his judgement and not on his integrity. 'It's a judgement and let the people judge me on it' ... 'I made a decision' ... And I managed the cabinet on the mushroom principle ... 'But let's stop all this nonsense about my integrity'.

On his judgement he has no chance, no chance at all, but he doesn't wish to stand on his integrity either, and tries to suppress questions on it. The sheister is adept at changing the subject, but his problem is he has no good alternative subject - both his integrity and his judgement are lousy. He is desperate to slide back into office for another five years - and he wants every last day of those five years, you can bet your squeaking pips on that. Blair is guilty of both bad judgement and lack of integrity. Don't be fooled by the false dichotomy he proposes.

The Liberals should be a good party, in theory, but they do not make it easy to support them. Their spokespeople seem to think that liberalism is a wishy-washy middle of the road affair. On top of that we have Droopy Charlie at the helm, but at least he had the cop-on to oppose the bloody war, which the other two dumbasses we know couldn't begin to apprehend. The Liberals policy to replace the Council Tax with a local element in Income Tax, is a really great idea. (I declare an interest as someone who has very little income but lives in a building - not many of us, eh?) Some people over at the Grauniad are saying 'Hold your nose and vote Labour' but surely the cry should be 'Hold your nose hat and vote Liberal'.

Now, I turn to more unserious matters. The Willy sent Sarah Teather an exclusive $150 Willesden Herald "mug for munchkins", and all we asked was that she should drink from it every time she appeared on TV - not much to ask, you might think, but no. However, the Herald is big small enough to overlook that fact in the interests of Brent East.

Great Willesden googlewhackers and hapax legomena

Letters

Somebody should inform your correspondent Mona Bone-Jakon that there's no such thing as the Tennessee Wigwam. What she is probably thinking of is the Tennessee Wig Walk.

Isabelle Nesesari

Mona Bone-Jakon replies:
All I can tell you is that a very fine southern gentleman assured me that it was a traditional indoor sport in Dixieland.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Pope 'obstructed' sex abuse inquiry

The Observer | International

The letter states that the church's jurisdiction 'begins to run from the day when the minor has completed the 18th year of age' and lasts for 10 years.

It orders that 'preliminary investigations' into any claims of abuse should be sent to Ratzinger's office, which has the option of referring them back to private tribunals in which the 'functions of judge, promoter of justice, notary and legal representative can validly be performed for these cases only by priests'.

'Cases of this kind are subject to the pontifical secret,' Ratzinger's letter concludes. Breaching the pontifical secret at any time while the 10-year jurisdiction order is operating carries penalties, including the threat of excommunication.


Nobody expects the Papal Inquisition...

Zoz

Pope 'obstructed' sex abuse inquiry

The Observer | International

The letter states that the church's jurisdiction 'begins to run from the day when the minor has completed the 18th year of age' and lasts for 10 years.

It orders that 'preliminary investigations' into any claims of abuse should be sent to Ratzinger's office, which has the option of referring them back to private tribunals in which the 'functions of judge, promoter of justice, notary and legal representative can validly be performed for these cases only by priests'.

'Cases of this kind are subject to the pontifical secret,' Ratzinger's letter concludes. Breaching the pontifical secret at any time while the 10-year jurisdiction order is operating carries penalties, including the threat of excommunication.


Nobody expects the Papal Inquisition...

The bootleg tapes

Our undercover reporter secretly recorded this message by the candidate for Bethnal Green, George Galloway, at the demo against the visit of George W. Bush to the Quisling regime in London on November 20th, 2003.

If you haven't been deafened by that one, here are some recordings from the anti-war demo in London on March 22nd, 2003. The invasion of Iraq had commenced, and we had been seeing the night bombing of Baghdad on TV.

The first is a bit of blood-curdling oratory by a spokesman from MAB.

Here are a couple of snippets in one file from Tariq Ali calling for the dismantling of the US empire and pleading that the UN not become a cleaning company to pick up the pieces after US attacks.

This is Monsignor Bruce Kent, former leader of CND, proposing to bring Blair and Straw before the ICC. He also describes the TV coverage of the bombing of Baghdad as a form of pornography.

These recordings are just random snippets, due to technical problems with the Herald's vast network of camera deployed.



Onion Mbeke thinks that the above picture from Hyde Park on May 22nd, 2003 may be the best ever by our former photographer Ossian Lennon. (He said Lemon, but we know who he means.)



Ed's favourite is still this one from the great anti-war demo in London on February 15th, 2003.

double exposure

The masters of impunity and self-aggrandisement and, in a poor hospital in Iraq, a father tending to his son wounded by their schemes.

Science for the Confused - an occasional series

No.3: Sport

Snooker

My enjoyment of Snooker on the BBC is impaired by the noises coming from the match taking place on the other side of the screen, at the Crucible. If that statement means nothing to you, congratulations - you're probably not a couch potato. I am, however. I propose an electronic sound filtering system, using separate microphones for each game (of course, as they must already.) Now we identify sound patterns arriving at both microphones and only select those which are louder at the microphone we want to listen to, filtering out the others. This should give us only the sound relating to our present snooker match.

Golf

Can any putt be holed? In other words, is it possible by applying the correct force and direction to the golf ball to attain the hole on any regulation green? Often a golfer will miss, and having putted with too much force, end up too far past, maybe even farther away than where he started. So what we need is a formula to derive probability of holing, relative to topology between ball and hole, or even better a computer model illustrating the best line to aim for and the optimum force to apply. If this could be installed in a device capable of scanning a green, then we would have a product that would be of interest initially to TV companies. A miniaturised camera and processor in the head of a putter with a guidance display on top indicating when the angle and swing were perfect, would be a boon for golfers, if permitted, or at least for training purposes. I give it to you entrepeneurs, go for it.*

<< Previous | Next >>

Professor Kronk

*The Willesden Herald names this device a kronk, in honour of the Professor, and offers a prize of two weeks plenary indulgences to whoever produces the first working prototype. (Courtesy of Mrs Haverty Enterprises International, in association with Father Aquino p.p.)

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Faces in the crowd



Have you seen either of these men? They are responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians and the maiming and dispossession of hundreds of thousands more.

Woody Allen, that towering colossus

Melinda and Melinda

This is brilliant in itself, as a trailer and advertisement. Mr Fox Searchlight must be a very happy man.

Friday, April 22, 2005

A real man versus a monkey

Guardian Unlimited Politics | Special Reports | Doing it for Tom: Mr Keys takes on the prime minister

"How come the prime minister can write a letter of condolence to Ozzy Osbourne after he falls off a quad bike, but can't write to families bereaved by the war, or visit the wounded?" he [Reg Keys] asked on the doorstep.

Over the road from the Labour Club, Simon Cross was taking a day off from his job as a psychiatric nurse. "I haven't decided yet. I'm very sorry about that man losing his son in the war, but you sometimes think they would elect a monkey in a suit around here, so long as it was Labour."


What do you mean "would"?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Concordance and "statistically improbable phrases" etc.

Amazon is doing some crazy things with books these days. If you're interested in seeing my 100 most used words (including bizarrely "vas") arrayed in varying sizes according to usage, clickable to produce a list of all the usages, also readability indexes, including the wonderfully named "fog index" click here (for purely educational purposes, of course!) Here's the one for Still Life in Motion. I'm a little jealous that that book lists "statistically improbably phrases" and mine doesn't, but I know they've underestimated the number (or arbitrarily limited it) by a factor of about 10,000.

Ossian

Monday, April 18, 2005

Forest flame & wildflowers

click for higher resolution

Pieris "Forest Flame" is just past its best now, starting to go to seed already (if I look closely). I've been meaning to try and snap it. This is one of three in my front garden that came from Inverary about ten years ago. The others are a bit bigger than this one, but harder to photograph. Forest Flame is a beautiful evergreen and apart from the profusion of pendulous white flowers, new foliage emerges bright red - hence the name.

Went to the barbers this afternoon, braving scarification by a mad Kosovan whose traditional haircare seems to involve repeated blows to the scalp with the prongs of a steel comb. He wasn't there today, thank Allah, and instead there was a very nice, strapping lass in his place.

You never know what you're going to get when you go into a barbershop in London. The last place I tried had a soundtrack of dreary chanting by an Arabic male voice choir, and a constant stream of fit young Arab blokes passing through - "Salam Aleichem" "Aleichem Salam" - chatter, chatter, and away again. They slapped hair oil on my hair without asking and I came out looking like Lon Chaney (senior).

Down on the High Street, I am struck by the beauty of water standing by the kerb, and the bright glow around the edges of dark clouds at the end of the high street. It ought to be enough to live these things, and not have to tell the world, but there is some urge to share, to tell people and have them say, I know - and did you see? So much waste...

Or profusion, I suppose. These wallflowers are growing wild in the front garden too, with some other purple flower underneath (violets?)



Ossian

Where does Gravitas stand on the death penalty?

Letters

I am very disappointed with Feargal Moonway's [sic] flip-flopping over this issue. Where exactly does Gravitas stand on tailgaters and justifiable homicide now? He has been going around promising to dole out free SAM shoulder-launched missiles to holders of Advanced Driving licences and Neighbourhood Watch chairmen, and now we read that the Willesden Herald has persuaded him against including the death penalty for tailgaters in his manifesto. How can we ever trust anything he says ever again?

Disgusted, Wembley

Feargal Mooney replies:
I don't recognize my policies from this reader's description. I have been completely consistent in what I've said to voters in Brent East. Vote for me if you want to blow up cars with booming sound systems waking you up in the middle of the night. I never said anything about named brands of rocket launcher. Now let's get back to the real issues in this election, i.e. how to get me elected.

The 6-month flu

Letters

What the hell is this little cough that everyone has, is it the 6-month flu, a biblical plague or what? It's lucky it's not the bird flu or we'd all be stuffed.

Alice Hacking

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Belly dancing in Kilburn

Went to see Bloody Sunday: Scenes from the Saville Inquiry at the Tricycle Theatre tonight. A documentary not a drama, it's edited from the inquiry proceedings by Richard Norton-Taylor. One has to trust his selection of scenes from such a long transcript to give a fair impression, and it felt about right. The acting was excellent, especially Sorcha Cusack as Bernadette McAliskey, and the whole cast as well, not a dropped stitch anywhere.

Walking back to Willesden Lane, an apparition! We stopped to watch the sashaying of a belly dancer through the half-darkened window of El Andsaloasse Moroccan restaurant. I dream of Jeannie.

Ossian

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Mapmaker of Absences

Event



“Maria M. Benet is a literary cartographer of memory, of a past dense with meanings that need to be deciphered, of longing, nostalgia, and loss. She has found a way to map the interiors, and she does so with insight, sympathy, and imagination.” –Edward Hirsch.



And if you are so lucky as to be in Corte Madera tomorrow, you can take a stroll down to the local bookshop for 7 p.m. (does anybody stroll there? if not then roll) and hear the author of that most pleasing blog Alembic read from her new book, Mapmaker of Absences (Sixteen Rivers Press).

Ossian

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Two heads with a single thought



Ed Matts and Ann Widdecombe

More poetry readings online

The Writer's Almanac® "a daily program of poetry and history hosted by Garrison Keillor, can be heard each day on public radio stations throughout the country [USA]. Each day's program is about five minutes long—check your local radio listings for the station and time in your area. Our archive of almanac entries stretches back to 2001." (Via Not Another Word)

Ossian

How should Bush fill his iPod?

Guardian Unlimited | Newsblog

"Post your suggestions ... and there's a great prize on offer for the best one ... a copy of Steve Bell's Apes of Wrath - his viciously funny cartoon portrait of the Blair presidency and the 'war on terror'."

Kindertotenlieder?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The poets speak

Guardian Unlimited Books



"In a recent lecture, Bloodaxe publisher Neil Astley made a swingeing attack on the current state of poetry. He criticised the 'door police' - editors and critics who he believes are shutting out new talent at the expense, particularly, of women and ethnic minority writers. Eleven leading poets give their response to his complaints"



There's a link to the text of his lecture there too.

Ossian

Victory for PETA

PETA and PETCO announce agreement

"People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and PETCO Animal Supplies, Inc. today announced an agreement that will advance animal welfare across the country. PETA will end its campaign against the national pet food and supply retailer and PETCO will end the sale of large birds in its stores."

This is for the birds - in a good way.

Zoz

Monday, April 11, 2005

Hain relief for Neath

Sky News

"Patricia Tabram says she wants to stand against House of Commons leader Peter Hain for the Legalise Cannabis Alliance in his Neath constituency."

Good. Put us out of his misery.

Issued on behalf of the Knights who say 'Neath'

Zoz

Sunday, April 10, 2005

9 years jail for lousy, spamming shitarse

Jeremy Jaynes aka Gaven Stubberfield convicted

"A North Carolina spammer Jeremy Jaynes, convicted in the nation's first felony prosecution for spamming was sentenced on Friday to nine years in prison, but the judge postponed the sentence while the case is appealed."

He should've got 100 years with no possibility of parole, and it still wouldn't be enough for all the time he's stolen from other people's lives.

Zoz

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Hey, hey we're ...



The culprits behind the publication of The Monkey's Typewriter*. "Written to celebrate ten years of Willesden Green Writers' Workshops, it contains eighteen stories and poems that are in turn funny, disturbing, captivating and downright strange." No names, no pack drill.

*Available in all Brent libraries and some local bookshops. ISBN 0-9530195-5-1

Friday, April 08, 2005

More Voices, Less Faces

Readings from Gilbert Sorrentino, Carol Maso, Philip Roth, Leslie Scalapino and Italo Calvino.



"Coming across sound files that are new to me, especially to start the day, is my rest cure. Many students will ask me to name the voice they hear from the computer, release some blank gesture and sit down, once again, undisturbed."



Ossian

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Saul Bellow, giant of American literature, dies at 89

Guardian Unlimited Books | News

"From his earliest days, Bellow was determined to depart from the sparely written and macho American brand of story telling, falling back on a self-absorbed intellectual as narrator and plundering his often tumultuous personal life for material."

I remember when I read Mr Sammler's Planet, his theorising that we are "an explaining generation" always trying to explain everything, a sort of folly insofar as it appears to precede understanding, had a profound effect on my way of thinking. I sought out a collection of his short stories, from which I still recall something about a ramshackle place in the desert. (If I remember anything at all about a book, I've decided, it means that was a good book. Most are forgotten.)

It's been a bad week for people in their eighties, the Pope, Prince Rainier and now Saul Bellow (and of course, thousands more we'll never hear about.) Bellow was quite impressive in another way too, he fathered a child in 1999, which would make him 83 at the time.

Ossian

BBC, forget impartiality: it's payback time

Letters

Now is the time for all good broadcasters to kick the crap out of New Labour.

Nick McAvelly

Violent cretin gets £33,000 per week for being an arsehole

Bowyer and Dyer

"Bowyer, though, has been fined a club record six weeks' wages - estimated at £200,000 - and given a final written warning by Shepherd, while Dyer has escaped any punishment as he is deemed the innocent party."

That moronic fucker gets £33k per week for playing ponced-up games, while I'm up to my eyes in credit card debt, which I can never clear, just to pay the taxman, when I can't even afford to maintain my house, and look after my family, struggling for a living as a self-employed day labourer. These people and their equivalents in charge of ruining the media and every other worthwhile thing in the country represent the rats tail of degenerate Thatcherite dregs, squirming their way to the oblivion they deserve.

Zoz

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Closing event in the Westwords festival

Monkey business in Willesden Green

The launch of the Willesden writers workshop anthology, The Monkey's Typewriter* was great fun. As well as rip-roaring tales, gems of poems, and masterful and hilarious compering by Nii Parkes, there was food and some particularly excellent bottles of wine. (I wish I'd noted the labels.) Nii Parkes also read his brilliant short story "The Smell of Petrol" (excerpt here) which keenly evoked a sense of life in Ghana with a mixture of wabi-sabi and keeping up appearances, of pride and tragicomedy.

*Soon to be available in Brent libraries and local bookshops. "Gerry Boysey's Human Circus", a wacky bit of nonsense by yours truly, is the last piece in the book.

Ossian

Urgent memo to Simon

Simon, I wish you'd turn your mobile on! I'm posting this via AudioBlagger from my accountants. I will be back in the office after three-thirty or after the four o-clock, depending how this meeting goes. I need to talk to you about a problem with my computer screen. It's gone yellow. Are you aware that there is a general election on? I want to make sure that nobody else has this problem with their screens, they might think we're favouring the Liberals. Please contact me, a.s.a.p!

Ed.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Hope for the hopeless*

'Editing' technique can rewrite genes

"The scientists combined a molecule called a zinc finger protein, which can identify and bind to a specified gene, with an enzyme that can cut DNA. The protein effectively delivers the enzyme to its target, just in front of the gene the scientists want to cut out."

*Can we place an advance order for a dose of perfect spelling genes, please? Ed

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Jupiter's eye

World Exclusive



Willesden Observatory today released this picture showing the strange effects of ten thousand mile per hour dust storms on Jupiter.

Identity Card

Dear ... ...



Give the policeman your bones to look at, he has assessed you...

Ossian

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Breaking news

"Little Ant and Dec" grill Blair

"LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Tony Blair leaves no stone unturned in the search for votes -- so today he has faced a grilling on television from two 10-year-old boys during a primetime entertainment show." (Reuters)

Friday, April 01, 2005

Brilliant renaming plan for today's Britain

Scotsman.com News - Top Stories

The German commissioner, Arlo Pilof, the architect of the 2006 Race and Gender Equality Imposition Code (conformity), an amendment to existing rules, said: 'We believe many names do not conform, and we started with Scotland because it is the worst of the culprits with offensive names such as Skinflats, near Grangemouth.'

[...]

Mr Pilof revealed that England would be next on the agenda, citing the Isle of Man as particularly worthy of change.

A Manx spokesman said yesterday: "I hope this is a long way off. We are two-time losers, what with the island's name and Douglas as the capital. It's ridiculous, isn't it?

"It's as if these people sat there all day and made up this stuff."


From our point-of-view this sounds like a canny idea, and lang overdue, and we don't give two hoots as lang as they dinna change Willesden to Jillesden.*

*Scots dialect for the benefit of any Scotsman / Scotsperson readers who may be within range of the internet and surf in, as we computerised people say here.